Safety first

LIHUE – Wilcox Elementary first-grader Thomas Merritt is only 7 years old but his artwork may soon be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

That’s because he was one of 20 finalists in a statewide poster competition sponsored by Walk Wise Hawaii that aims to teach students about pedestrian safety. The top two designs will be featured on tray liners at McDonald’s restaurants across the state in August to celebrate Pedestrian Safety Month.

McDonald’s partnered with Walk Wise Hawaii to educate more than 9,000 children on good pedestrian habits. The program is an effort of the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The goal of the program is to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians by teaching children to not only look both ways before crossing the street, but to also always be aware of their surroundings when crossing the road.

As part of the program, children were asked to share safety tips with an older family member. As a reward for sharing the tips, each child was given a free Happy Meal. The students then drew a poster design to illustrate one of the safety tips.

Thomas drew a picture of himself crossing the street wearing bright, reflective clothing, which students learned is especially important during the early morning hours and late at night. His design also included his dog Lucy wearing a reflective vest, which the judges felt showed that Thomas understands the importance of sharing these tips with others.

Of the 20 statewide finalists, Thomas is the only student from Kauai.

Police officers Arthur Caberto, Russell Himongala and Marty Fernandez were at the assembly to encourage students to be safe, as was Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar.

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